WISHTATA, Libya — Libyan fighters launched a two-pronged assault Friday on one of the last towns to resist the country's new rulers, clashing with Moammar Gadhafi's supporters inside Bani Walid as a weeklong standoff dissolved into street-to-street battles, the revolutionary forces said.
Libya's new rulers had set a deadline of today for Gadhafi loyalists in Bani Walid to surrender or face an offensive but decided to attack Friday evening after Gadhafi forces fired volleys of rockets at the fighters' positions around the town.
Abdullah Kenshil, the Libyan fighters' chief negotiator, said they were fighting gunmen positioned in houses in the town and the hills that overlooked it.
Revolutionary forces also battled Gadhafi loyalists to the east of the former Libyan ruler's stronghold of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast, but they were forced to pull back after taking heavy casualties in close-quarters fighting, a spokesman said.
Before the reported Friday evening assault on Bani Walid, Gadhafi holdouts in the city fired mortar shells and rockets toward the fighters' position in a desert dotted with green shrubs and white rocks, killing at least one and wounding several.
The Libyan fighters said they believed that there were about 600 Gadhafi supporters in and around Bani Walid.
ENVOY WELCOMED: President Barack Obama on Friday formally received Libya's ambassador to the United States and accepted his credentials to represent the country and its new government. The ambassador, Ali Aujali, was also the envoy under Moammar Gadhafi until he broke with the regime and called for Gadhafi to resign.